This Is My Country

Edmund Burke, 1723 - 1792. MP and supporter of the American Revolution

Edmund Burke, 1723 – 1792. MP and strong supporter of the American Revolution

Reading time – 3.5 minutes; viewing time – 8:15  .  .  .

Necessary preface:

Je Suis Paris

In solidarity with the people of France in this terrible moment

This offering has been scheduled for quite a while and has been pushed back until today because of more pressing issues. Now we have a most pressing issue, the unholy slaughter of innocents in Paris on Friday night. Almost oddly, that makes this essay more urgent, because one of the reasonable, if self-destructive, reactions to a threat is the surrender of liberty in the frantic search for security. Recall that Hitler came to power via a free, democratic election.

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One thing worth noting about reality is how stubborn it is: denial doesn’t change it; wishing away the unpleasant parts doesn’t disappear them. Little children playing peek-a-boo cover their eyes so that they cannot see you. What is notable is that their momentary inability to see you causes them to believe that you’re actually not there. They fail to recognize the reality – the you that remains even when they don’t see. Reality. It’s stubborn.

Almost precisely eleven years ago Rev. Davidson Loehr of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, TX published an essay entitled Living Under Fascism. I urge you to click through and read it but caution you to first be sure that you are brave enough to face reality. Your courage to look won’t change reality. It will, however, change you.

In his essay, Loehr quotes a scholarly political science work, writing,

In an essay coyly titled “Fascism Anyone?,” [click here to download the PDF] Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet yielded this list of 14 “identifying characteristics of fascism.” .  .  .  See how familiar they sound.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos [sic], slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military

Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism

The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections

Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

This list will be familiar to students of political science. But it should be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide. It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again.

Consider Britt’s challenge: See how familiar these things sound. Has the creep of fascism by our political creeps given you the creeps? Not yet? Well, uncover your eyes, because pretending that this scourge is not here hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t make it go away.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil

is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

This is my country. And yours. And it needs us to stand up and speak up.Flag with Clouds

 

That’s why there’s a flag right here.

Thanks go to JL for pointing out Loehr’s essay.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

 

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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2 Responses to This Is My Country
  1. dominick Reply

    Of the 14 items on this list, numbers 13 and 14 stand out for me. They describe how the power of those in government manipulate the majority of the population with distorted and false propaganda as described in the other points – which would not likely be present, if not for these two. It seems that very few of us are willing to accept the fact that most (and I mean most) of our politicians at the federal level represent their own self-interests.

    For example, there is no Constitutional law to hold them accountable for their behavior. They determine their own hours, vacation schedules and whom to pay to work for them. While we hire them as our employees, they do not report to us. They are immune from criminal prosecution or financial responsibility for any law they pass causing hazards to the health, safety or financial welfare of the American people – not to mention our rights. They are allowed to collect money from those foreign to their voting districts to maintain employment and deny they are influenced.

    The influence of money for favors is clearly supported by the vast majority of our members of Congress and our Presidents. They created the laws to accept bribes and have made no honest effort to repeal them. Republicans dominate Congressional decision-making with House rules to prevent legislation to come up for a vote. While Democrats cower in their offices, afraid to speak up for fear of losing in the next election by bankrolled Republicans or another Democrat shill.

    All support an election system that promotes the flow of cash to elect politicians, and commercial TV debates moderated by corporate-paid moderators. We have hundreds of public broadcasting TV and radio stations to hold debates, town hall meetings and frequent interviews on, but are rarely used.

    In addition, as far as voting in elections goes, no voter can prove if their vote was counted or given to their candidate of choice. I could not find a single politician in the country supporting honest election balloting. There is absolutely no reason why voters can’t have a copy of their ballot printed out for them as a receipt, which they can also verify on the Internet to detect voting fraud. In fact, if we weren’t so concerned about having the results the same day, we could simply do a video surveillance of paper ballot counting in every precinct in the country – with voters holding a copy of their ballot for verification.

    Then there is the question of “leadership” our politicians’ crow about. How many hold regular town halls, or even have a forum to know what their constituents want? Whom exactly do they think they are making decisions for if they make no effort to listen to their constituents? This is the reality that I see.

    http://www.TrueDemocracyNow.org

  2. Frtank Levy Reply

    Jack – excellent post, and extremely timely. Thanks. I posted it to my FB page [at https://www.facebook.com/frank.levy.739?fref=ts%5D.